By Micah Sucherman, Associate, Gibson Dunn
I’ve assumed from the beginning that being a LAW SCHOOL … Sí Se Puede mentor would be a challenge. With a few months of mentoring under my belt, though, it’s fair to say that I was completely off the mark in understanding what kind of challenge it would be. I assumed that my mentee, Carolina, would be a little like I was when I started college—bright, hardworking, a little bit interested in becoming a lawyer, and without any idea of how to get there.
I was off the mark. Carolina is certainly bright and hardworking, but she is also determined, ambitious, disciplined, and deliberate. There is no question that she could, with or without a good mentor, attend the law school of her choice and embark on a successful career. So I’ve been forced to ask myself this question: How do you mentor a person who is capable of achieving their goals without a mentor?
The answer, I think, lies in understanding what makes for a thriving lawyer. We are all familiar with the demands that our chosen careers sometimes place on us—the tough cases, the sometimes-difficult relationships with opposing counsel, the judges with strict but inconvenient deadlines. We balance these challenges against the obligations we have to our friends and families, and quite often to ourselves. And many of us fail to strike the right balance as often as we succeed. A case could be made that a thriving lawyer is one that is able to find ways to manage these competing demands while maintaining enthusiasm for and dedication to our chosen profession.
What Carolina and I often discuss is developing the habits and the mindset to successfully manage her already crowded list of obligations. We talk about how to balance her pre-law school goals (good grades, the right letters of recommendation, etc.) with the demands inherent in trying to have an enjoyable and memorable college experience. Should she take a weekend to visit family, or should she devote that weekend to the library? Should she study abroad for a semester, or should she use that time to focus on pre-law classes? There are almost never “right” answers to these types of questions, just as there are rarely “right” answers to how we, as lawyers, manage our time (should I finish this brief tonight, or should I hang out with my family, get up early, and finish it tomorrow?). But by helping our mentees learn how to ask and answer these questions for themselves, we might be able to help them do more than become lawyers. We might be able to help them thrive as lawyers.